The Best Events In Sports
#10 The Daytona 500
You have to love a sport that starts its season with its biggest event. No warm-ups needed in NASCAR as the season kicks off in February with the biggest event in motor sports. NASCAR has recently seen a resurgence in the sport due to a cavalcade of excellent drivers both new and old. Legends Jimmy Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart bolster the sport while fan favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr. has won the Great American Race twice now. Johnson and Gordon have also won multiple 500's, Gordon with three has the most of any active driver, while the godfather Richard Petty has seven to lead all drivers all time. Chevy has dominated this track by the sea with 23 victories leading it next closest competitor Ford in the dust with only 13. Daytona is just plain fun and racing is about as pure of a competition as there is, making the Daytona 500 one of the ten best events in Sports.
#9 The Stanley Cup Playoffs
The chase of Lord Stanley's Cup each year is one of most exciting spectacles in all of sports. This event could easily be placed much higher on the list, and by many it would be number one. However in my opinion the NHL has some serious issues that have pushed away the casual fan. Star power is way down from the glory days in the 80's and 90's (contraction anyone?) and the lack of true American presence has contributed to the game's decline. That being said there is nothing quite like the intensity of playoff hockey. Over time is routine, comebacks seem planned, and every goal changes the momentum of an entire series. The very nature of the sport is setup for excitement where every goal is a huge accomplishment thus lending itself to dramatic finishes. The players display a toughness seen no where else in sports, and when combined with that ultimate sense of urgency brought on by the playoffs it makes for fantastic hockey. The hits are bigger, the rivalries more intense, and the skating is faster when the Cup is on the line. The Cup may be the coolest trophy in Sports having every player's name to hoist it etched in history. Oh the places that Cup has been as each player gets his day with the trophy after winning it all. NHL playoffs slide in at number 9 but if Gary Bettman and the NHL find a way to possibly contract, rid themselves of work stoppages, and lure top American athletes, the NHL playoffs could rank in the top five.
#7 The U.S. Open (Golf)
The US Open is Golf's toughest challenge. The courses are the most difficult of any played on the PGA tour thus creating a champion forged out of fire. From Jack Nicklaus to Arnold Palmer to Tiger Woods, Open winners include the legends of golf. The dramatic climax of sunday at the U.S. Open is amongst the best days in all of sports. A unique aspect of the Open is that it is just that, open. National qualifying tournaments allow amateurs to make their Tin Cup run at history. However it is the brilliance of the greats that makes the Open Championship so special like Tiger out dueling Rocco Mediate in 2008 or Arnold Palmer besting Jack at Cherry Hills in 1960. The courses that have hosted the Open since 1895 are nothing short of breath taking master pieces groomed for the grueling four day event. From Pebble Beach to Torrey Pines, from Merion to Congressional, there is nothing quite like the courses on which the Open championship is decided. The individual aspect of Golf is what makes it so special, you are playing against yourself, against the course, against par. Yes the other players provide pressure and a score to beat, but ultimately golf is played within one's self firmly planting the sport in not only America's hearts but the world's.
#8 The BCS Championship Game
College football is as big as any American sport, and its culmination in a title game is not to be missed. In fact most of the BCS bowl games are just as exciting as its title game which is a great thing for college football fans but perhaps leaves the BCS Championship Game a little lower on the list than it could be. Change is on the horizon however, with a four team playoff to be instituted in 2015. This should lead to a better National Championship game but I have my fears that this will only lead to a larger playoff field and thus render the most exciting regular season in all of sports a shadow of itself. That being said the National Championship Game is absolutely fantastic. College sports in general carry a more rabid fan base and seem to represent entire regions of fans. The title game is a representation of the team's respective conferences and the battles that ensue have been legendary. Florida State vs Auburn in 2014 was a classic but the best game I have ever seen perhaps in any sport ever was Texas vs USC in the 2006 Rose Bowl. It was a back and forth game that pitted Vince Young and Texas against Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush of USC. Star power a plenty and an excellent game with comeback after comeback yielded Vince Young and Texas the National Championship. College football is in a constant state of flux with conference realignment, and changing playoff formats but no matter what the National Championship Game is a part of American history.
What Is Your Favorite Sporting Event?
#6 March Madness
Buzzer beaters, school pride, upsets, and all the while your bracket is going up in flames; this is March Madness. Even the most casual hoops fan finds themselves enveloped in a sea of games over a three week span that leaves everyone including the experts shaking their heads. In 2014 and eighth seeded UCONN team won against all odds in a dramatic run of upsets. It is the beauty of the tourney, and each year some team will don the Cinderella slipper as it knocks off higher seed after higher seed. The tournament provides stages of accomplishment with its Sweet Sixteen weekend culminating with the Final Four so that teams can have a measure of success by reaching said plateaus even if they don't win the whole show. As many of you are reading this you might be shaking your head at how this wonderful event is only ranked sixth. As fun as it is to play a format that is a one and done scenario is does not necessarily yield the best team as a champion. In fact more times than not the team that wins the tourney is not college basketball's best team, see UCONN 2014, NC State 1983, Villanova 1985. All of these teams are fantastic stories, and they are why March Madness is the dynamic event that it is but no one who follows basketball thinks these teams would have won in a 5 game series. Another knock on college basketball in general is the ridiculous amount of TV timeouts that take place. As a TV viewer you will most likely watch 20 minutes of commercials during the final five minutes of any close game. Not only are the teams armed with too many timeouts but there are actual TV timeouts called, how do these players even get tired? Not to worry the action and the camaraderie of the season will firmly plant this collegiate sports event firmly in the top six every year.
#5 The NBA Finals
Mega star athletes have carried the NBA firmly into top five territory when it comes to its Finals. Consider the stars that have been in the finals since 1980, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwan, Shaquille O'Neal, Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James. This event has pitted the best of the best against each other and the amount of championships won measure the players in the NBA like no other sport. Magic has 5, Bird 3, Michael 6, Hakeem 2 Shaq 4, Duncan 4, Kobe 5, and LeBron 2 and counting. Those are numbers etched into lore in the NBA annals and the Finals are a show case of head to head matchups like no other sport has ever seen. Magic's Lakers versus Bird's Celtics, Jordan's Bulls versus Magic, Duncan versus LeBron, Olajuwan versus Shaq, are just a rough outline of the matchups over the last thirty plus years. The torch of greatness is passed from team to team as it seems one has to defeat the previous champion to succeed. The Pistons had to get by the Celtics and the Lakers in the late 80's, the Bulls through the Pistons in the early 90's. The NBA Finals will forever be the showcase for the best athletes on the planet to compete at the highest level and as such will always be one of the best events in all of sports.
Mickelson at The Masters 2004
#4 The World Series
The Fall Classic is as pure of a tradition as we have in sports. Baseball is a game of fathers and sons and its crown jewel is the World Series. Despite the New York Yankees' dominance in the event winning 27 times, there is still an air that any team can win it any year. After the grind of 162 games and the playoffs there is no doubt that the best teams emerge with the delicate balance of great pitching, hitting, and defense, a trifecta that no other sport can boast. The World Series has seen matchups that create heroes and legends. David Freese, David Eckstein, Louis Gonzales and Joe Carter are known better for their World Series exploits than the bulk of their careers. The Red Sox broke their curse in 2004 against The Cardinals, backed it up in 07' and again in 2014 with Red Sox great David Ortiz at the helm in each series. Mr. October was born in the World Series when Reggie Jackson blasted three home runs in a 1977 World Series game. Really the World Series should be higher on the list if anything, but work stoppages and steroids have changed the face of the game allowing football to soar as the national past time. Never the less baseball will always have a special place in American culture making the World Series a must see event every October.
#3 The Masters
When your event is held at Augusta National you can't go wrong. A tradition unlike any other The Masters is golf's premier event. The ambience of Augusta National with its beautiful layout and well known pit falls can be felt by everyone, even the viewers at home. You even know the names of the holes, the trees, and the water at Augusta. Then there is the field of players which boasts a who's who of the finest players in the world. Multiple Masters winners include Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Nick Faldo, and Bubba Watson to name a few. Epic wins like Tiger in 1998 when he ran away with tourney or Faldo overtaking Greg Norman as a he coughed up a seven stroke lead will never be forgotten. Bobby Jones designed this flawless golf course and declared that this piece of land had no other purpose than to hold a golf course. The Masters flies to the top three because of its final day. Masters Sunday is a day of drama like no other. Holding on to a lead is just as difficult as running one down, and many players have failed at both. The winner dons the Green Jacket given to him by the previous years winner. Ray's Creek, Amen Corner, Ike's Tree, The Masters is more than a golf tournament, it is a place in time with its winners etched in the annals of greatness forever.
#2 The Super Bowl
Yes the premier event in American sports and the most viewed sporting event in the world is only number two the list, but it is number two on the list! The culmination of the NFL season in a clash that makes players into legends can never be missed. A player is measured by his rings, Brady with 3, Montana with 4, Elway with 2, those without a ring may be great but they are known for their lack of a Super Bowl title. Dan Marino, Barry Sanders, and LaDanian Tomlinson all had spectacular careers but without the crowning achievement of a ring they are incomplete. The Super Bowl has had some of most amazing games ever played in sports. The Broncos defeat over Green Bay in 1998, The Giants over the Patriots twice and Buffalo in the wide right game are an example of a few. The fanfare surrounding the Super Bowl makes the event more than a game which gives the game its ambience, but also takes away from the pure sport of the game. Rest assured the victors of this game can shape the face of a franchise forever, if not a city as a whole. Pittsburgh is known as a hard nosed city in large part because of the Steelers and their championship teams. The Super Bowl is the end all be all of American sports but for me there is one better day of sport with less distractions where fans are not concerned with the pregame and the commercials of all things...
#1 Championship Sunday
Two championship football games in one day with less fanfare and all pure football? Count me in and make that my number one sporting event by far. The AFC and NFC championship games are an amazing spectacle of football that is not to be missed. This mostly underrated day of football has all of the elements that make a great sporting event great. The best players squaring off in championship bouts in the best most exciting sport in the world and with out all of the hoopla that comes with the Super Bowl. No one is concerned about the commercials, or the party, just about the games. The NFL is king and when you can get two title games on one day what could be better? I concede that legends are made from winning Super Bowls, but just getting to the Super Bowl is a spectacular achievement in itself. Winning a conference title game leads to two weeks of build up and is a championship accomplishment for the team and the city no matter what happens in the Super Bowl. Look at 2014 for instance, the best matchups were in the conference championship games, Broncos vs Patriots and Seahawks vs 49ers. Brady vs Manning and the best rivalry in the game an NFC West showdown between the games best defenses. Brady and Manning have squared off before in the AFC title game, if the two best quarterbacks are in the same conference how can the Super Bowl make a better matchup than that? The casual fan may not agree with my assessment of Championship Sunday as the best event in sports, but hardcore sports fans have to admit that the combination of two excellent games in the most popular sport on the same day has to rank number one.
Baseball Opening Day: Doesn't make the list because its really only special in person and the fanfare often out lives the actual game which is only 1 of 162.
Indy 500: Again if this event is attended it is amazing, not really a television ratings maker, and I couldn't name more than two driver any given year.
Heavy Weight Title Fight Boxing: If there were any heavyweights worth watching anymore this would be in the top five easily. Boxing as a whole is in even more trouble when it loses its Middleweight prize in Mayweather.
British Open: Golf across the pond is a beast, a spectacular event but three golf events in the top ten might show my golf bias a little too much.
The Olympics: Not my cup of tea, the most exciting events last about ten seconds or two minutes, a lot of build up for little reward. On the plus side there is the whole national pride thing, but that's not enough to be in our top ten.
Wimbledon: The main event in Tennis, but its tennis...
X-Games: Exciting and kind of cool but very niche.
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